by Susan Mary Malone
Loved this from Literary Agent Lucienne Diver’s (The Knight Agency) recent FB post: You know when you hit that point in writing your novel where you just want to say, “And then more stuff happens, the end”?
Surging into the climax, the Supreme Ordeal, is not the time to feel that way. LOL. Rather, the energy you’ve built up while writing the bridge to this point should have your adrenaline surging like a mad rush over Niagara Falls. Because that’s what the climax of a novel is—plunging your reader over a thousand-mile-high waterfall.
It doesn’t matter in what genre you’re writing, whether Fantasy or Horror, Romance or Literary, Mainstream or Christian. Trust a novel editor on this. This is the crux of your novel, where everything comes together, although not in a tied-up sort of way—that’s for the next section, denouement and resolution. But where all of the action and discovery, all of the angst and trials and tribulations and self-realization and, well, everything, merges into one big giant fat boom.
That doesn’t necessarily mean the boom is actually a bomb going off, though such may happen. It can be running the final race, attacking the enemy, surging over the falls in a hand-made boat, staring that bottle of bourbon smack in the eye and pouring it out. It’s the culmination of everything you’ve led your reader up to for seventy-plus-thousand words. It’s the raison d’etre for why said reader has followed your folks all this time.
And, as with all things fiction, it’s both internal and external. The outer blowing-up-of-things mirroring the inner fight. But this does not mean analysis. By now, your reader knows well the Achilles’ Heel of your Protagonist, what the villain is after, and what happens if said Protagonist doesn’t save the day. What we don’t need here is any sort of pausing in the action to wax philosophical about how we got to this point, what it all means in the cosmic scheme of things, and the hero’s place in it. Remember, when the tiger is racing to pounce, we don’t stop and think of the history of tigers, or what sort of gun we’re shooting him with. Rather, we shoulder the gun, aim, and shoot. If successful, we have time for all that analysis later. No, right now what we need is for things to blow smooth up.
Even in Literary fiction, we can have a literal blow up. In my latest novel, I Just Came Here to Dance, we meet with a fiery climax. Who knew. Conversely, even in an action-oriented Mystery, such as Kevin Don Porter’s Missing, the climax can rather be scary-cold, that feeling in silence of oh-my-god, we’re all gonna die!
The main thing is this climax must fit the book you’re writing. All that book development; that painstaking time of carefully crafting your characters, plot, plot points, etc.; having the fortitude to push though that point of “and then more stuff happens, the end;” setting your hero up with his most supreme ordeal—the thing that requires all that he’s learned so far—requires a huge emotional happening.
And one where the reader says in the end, Wow.